In the frontier village of Srpska Crnja, located less than 10 km from Jimbolia, is the “youngest” castle from the Serbian territory of the Banat area. It was built during the Second World War, at the order of a Nazi general, on a plot of land that once belonged to the Csekonics Count.
During the postbelic years, the castle was nationalised and used as a deposit for agriculture products. Then, during the ‘80s it worked as a motel for a brief period, after which it was abandoned. In 2011, due to a passionate Croatian hunter, Radovan Tumpa, the Banaterra Castle was restored and turned into a gorgeous hotel.
The first documented mentioning of the Chorna settlement takes place in 1373, while it belonged to the Timiş County of the Hungarian Kingdom. In 1482 and 1528 it appears under the name of Crna Seliste/Menoş. In the 17th century, Olasch (1660) – respectively Seleş (1696) – was part of the Timişoara Vilayet and it had a predominantly Serb population.
At the beginning of the 18th century, Zernia (1717) enters the administration of the Timiş part of Banat belonging to the Habsburg Empire, but is completely depopulated. Around 1750, it starts being colonized with both Serbian and Romanian people. Therefore, in 1778, while the village was part of the Torontal County, around 1394 souls lived here. In 1785, the German colonists settle in the vicinity of the village and they build Nemačka Crnja, the village receiving from that moment the name Serb und Deutsch Czernja (in reality there were two separate villages). Since 1922 and until today, the village remains under the name of Srpska Crnja.1)Ioan Haţegan – Dicţionar istoric al aşezărilor din Banat: sec. XI – XX. Atestări documentare şi cartografice, Editura ArtPress, Editura Banatul, Timişoara, 2013;
Before the First World War, the combined population of the two villages was of 7316 people, the majority of them being Serbian. During the interbelic period, the number of population raises up to 9100. Between the years 1941 and 1944, Srpska Crnja was included under the German administration of the Banat region and received a special status due to the large number of ethnic Germans (approximately 3000) who were living here.
At the end of the Second World War, the two villages were united. That’s also when a good part of the German people left the area, along with the defeated German army. The majority of those who remained here were sent then into Communist concentration camps. Since 1948, the camps are abolished but the German ethnics still leave in high numbers the territory of Yugoslavia. Today, the population of Srpska Crnja is dropping continuously (3753 people according to the 2011 census).2)Wikipedia – Srpska Crnja
The story of the Franz Neuhausen Castle, a close friend of Hermann Göring
The land on which the castle lies belonged for approximately 150 years to the noble Csekonics family of Jimbolia. “The Csekonics Count would have been, apparently, a great gambling enthusiast. So, in 1934, it is said that he would have placed a bet on this piece of land. He lost the best along with the land, which entered the property of a Jewish doctor from Zrenjanin, Alexander Šajovic. When the Second World War started, Šajovic disappeared from the country”, told us Radovan Tumpa.
The land ends up on the hands of Franz Neuhausen, a Nazi general and chief of the Serbian Military Administration but also a good friend of Hermann Göring. “No one knows exactly if Šajovic sold the land or was forced to give it away.” The fact is that Neuhausen orders the construction of a castle on this land, which was supposed to serve as his holiday and hunting lodge and also as a storage space.3)Kastel Banaterra – About us
“His mission here was to gather the goods stolen from the Jews and sort through them, following the model of << This is for me, this is for Göring and this is for the German government >>. In this way, he raised a fortune. He had also gathered fortunes even before the war, at the copper mines of Bor (e.n. Serbia). He thought of this castle as a holiday and hunting lodge, where he would invite his friends and other influential people from other countries”, says Radovan Tumpa.
The building of the castle took place between the years 1941 – 1943, following the project of a Russian architect who was imprisoned. “Neuhausen spent only a few months here, not much more than that. At the end of the war, the Yugoslav state arrested him. He was judged and, for several years, had to work at Bor, as an engineer. After that, he was deported to Germany. From what I understand, he would have said: <<Please don’t deport me! I will stay here and work. I will be a citizen of Yugoslavia, I will do anything, but, please, don’t deport me!>> But they did. In Germany he was arrested again. His war crimes were never proven”, told us Radovan Tumpa. Franz Neuhausen was freed from prison in 1953 and he died in 1966, at the age of 78 years.4)Wikipedia – Franz Neuhausen
After the Second World War, the castle starts to decline. It is nationalized and given to the head of a agricultural conglomerate, who sets up their office headquarters here. “During that period, in the basement was the employee kitchen. There were over 350 people working here.“ Finally, the castle ends up being used as a agricultural products deposit.
In 1981, the building was turned into a motel with restaurant, having 16 rooms and a capacity of 40 sleeping places. “The motel functioned until the end of the crisis of the old Yugoslavia. A short while after, they started destroying and stealing everything from here. They stole the paintings, the chandeliers, the furniture, absolutely everything!”
A friend told me that he knows a gorgeous castle, which I really have to see.
Radovan Tumpa is originally from Zagreb and he was the director of one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies from Croatia. “I got married with my current wife, who is from Belgrade. She moved with me to Zagreb but she couldn’t get used to the lifestyle of that place. So, I, having no problem with packing my bags and going where my feet take me, I decided to buy an apartment in Belgrade, where we lived together until a few years ago.
I opened my own business in Belgrad and I sold it in 2010. All of a sudden, we had a lot of money. A friend told me that he knows of a gorgeous castle which I really had to see. From the first time I came here, the first time I saw the castle, I told myself that this was my place.” The castle was sublicensed by Radovan and, in a short while, the restoration works, which ended up costing around 400.000 euro, started.5)Blic.rs – U dvorcu Kaštel prvi gosti od 15. juna
“I invested very much here, four years ago, during the restoration. I changed the electric installation and rebuilt the roof. The furniture is not the original one, it all belongs to me. Everything you see here was bought from the antique shops in Pancevo and restored by me. But, the wood structure that you see on the ceiling, the wooden floors and the stairs are the original ones. I had a specialist restoring the wood. He worked here for 7 months, 24/7. He slept, ate and lived here. It was just him and another specialist in technical problems. They repaired these stairs and all you see around.”
The Banaterra Castle, the “youngest” in Serbia, was inaugurated on the 15th of June 2011. The hotel has 4 rooms and an apartment at the first floor and 9 standard rooms in the attic, making a total of 45 accommodation places. “The ground floor bathrooms are very big, the size of a standard hotel room from the city.” On the ground floor a restaurant with terrace and a festivity room were organized, while, in the semi-basement there is a hunting room, mini-spa and fitness room.
We have many tourists from Romania.
Radovan told us that the majority of the tourists that pass through the Banaterra Castle doors are from Romania, this being greatly due to the short distance from the border. “It’s not sufficient, but approximately 50% of the people who pass through our doors are Romanians, especially during the important holidays (New Years and Christmas, old and new, celebrations and more).”
But the Castle also hosts sometimes VIPs such as businessmen from all of Europe. In the four years of activity, Radovan Tumpa reached the conclusion that this hotel has three clear types of clients.
The first type is represented by the hunters, “this is because I am also a hunter and I have many friends. Ion Ţiriac is our client, he comes every year for a few days to stay with us. The Rolex Director from Switzerland comes around. The Fiat Director is also our client. We even had members of the Spain Royal family (with the exception of the king, all members of the family came around), members of the Romanian parliament and also the Bulgarian one, Croatian one, Slovenian one and many more. Still, it’s not enough. They only come around a few days a year and we can’t rely just on that to survive. But they are a landmark for the high quality of services that we offer.”
The second type of clients is formed by the people that come from the business environment. “They come here because they have the security of our services. Even me, when I was working in the pharmaceutical industry, I would always be searching for a pleasant place where I could take my guests to lunch, to enjoy a beautiful atmosphere and where we could consolidate our relationships and our long-term collaborations.”
The third category is made out of families. “This place is ideal for the weekend tourism. Again, when I used to work in the pharmaceutical industry, I was always looking for a nice and quiet place to spend my weekends with my wife and daughter.”
…you, Romanians, aren’t living better than us, but you have hope.
Even if the hotel is not lacking clients, Radovan makes great efforts to keep his business afloat. “Europe is affected by the financial crisis. Serbia is no exception. In the last months, I was with my wife in Romania twice. Once was to pick up our daughter who was arriving by plane to the Timisoara airport. Before going to the airport we took a fast detour to Arad in order to enjoy a coffee. The city is so beautiful and my opinion is that you, Romanians, aren’t living better than us, but you have hope. I was looking at the youngsters who were passing by us through the Arad city center and I could read on their faces that they knew that tomorrow would be a better day than today.
About 50 years ago, my parents were living better than I do today. 50 years ago, every day was better than yesterday and twice as better and the one before that. Today, we’re just surviving. And it’s not a normal way of survival. I need the Romanian market because I know that many people from Jimbolia, from Sânnicolau Mare, Timisoara or Arad don’t know of this hotel. I can’t afford a budget for advertising or marketing because I already spent a lot of money on the building maintenance.”
Curious about and how the hotel is sustained by the local administration, Radovan told us that they help him “but are not attached to this place. They think that if they want to eat they can go to Kikinda or they can come here. And they do, but think that this is the best way to sustain this place. But it doesn’t help, a initiative that would encourage the local tourism would be better. This is missing here and I can understand why: the local people live strictly from their agriculture. They have no idea or initiative to do something else. In general, they wish to help me, but don’t know how.”
“My daughter is studying at a university in Scotland and most of her friends are from USA. They can’t believe that her dad lives in a place like this and that we aren’t a rich family”, Radovan Tumpa told us laughing, at the end of our visit.
Srpska Crnja is located at 10 km away from Jimbolia (see map) and 52 km away from Timişoara (see map), the castle being an ideal destination for a weekend trip. The Banaterra Castle is right at the entrance to Srpska Crnja, on the right side.
The restaurant prices are more than decent. For 5 portions of the house speciality (we strongly recommend the Pleskavica), 5 salads from the Serbian kitchen, coffee, water and juice, the total bill was around 55 euros. The castle only accepts dinar or euro money. You can also pay by card but we recommend having cash, because the POS doesn’t always work.
Photo credit: Flavius Neamciuc
Translated by Doiniţa Spuză
|↲ 1.||Ioan Haţegan – Dicţionar istoric al aşezărilor din Banat: sec. XI – XX. Atestări documentare şi cartografice, Editura ArtPress, Editura Banatul, Timişoara, 2013;|
|↲ 2.||Wikipedia – Srpska Crnja|
|↲ 3.||Kastel Banaterra – About us|
|↲ 4.||Wikipedia – Franz Neuhausen|
|↲ 5.||Blic.rs – U dvorcu Kaštel prvi gosti od 15. juna|